At the end of July 2014 we reported on a bizarre TV Licensing search warrant visit to a Kent property.
The visit was bizarre in the sense that the occupier acted perfectly reasonably throughout, but the TV Licensing's goons conducting the visit - Phillip Carvill and Alfred Gjergji - still indicated search warrant obstruction charges as a possible outcome. Their search uncovered no evidence whatsoever of unlicensed TV reception, despite that fact that Carvill personally attempted to install some equipment in a desperate attempt to incriminate the occupier.
We didn't think for one moment that TV Licensing would have the brass neck to pursue any trumped up obstruction charges, but apparently we were mistaken. In a remarkable demonstration of TV Licensing's vindictiveness, the occupier of the property was actually summoned to court on those charges.
TV Licensing's actions further reinforce our belief that it pursues search warrant obstruction as some sort of perverse consolation prize, even when it uncovers no evidence whatsoever of unlicensed TV reception.
Clearly TV Licensing doesn't like to lose face by searching a property where there is no evidence of unlicensed TV reception, so it tries to contort the circumstances to its own advantage. When the victim of TV Licensing's malicious search appears in court the newspaper headlines will always be "Joe Bloggs Convicted of Search Warrant Obstruction" instead of "TV Licensing Wrongly Searches Home Without TV". Of course if Joe Bloggs is acquitted of search warrant obstruction the newspapers won't want to know, so TV Licensing wins with either outcome.
In our earlier article we summarised some of the key circumstances of the visit that makes search warrant obstruction slightly implausible in our opinion:
- The occupier allowed TV Licensing entry very quickly, as soon as he has checked their ID and established the purpose of their visit. The time stamp on the video shows that the goons were inside the property within 45 seconds.
- The occupier immediately showed the goons where the TV set was and offered them the chance to examine it. At no time during the visit did the occupier stand anywhere near the TV set, or attempt to block the goons' access to it.
- The occupier rummaged around to find the remote control and attempted to hand it to the lead goon (Carvill). The lead goon refused to take it, instead trying to get the occupier to incriminate himself by turning on the TV set. It is entirely understandable that the occupier refused to turn on the TV set in these circumstances.
- The Notice of Powers and Rights (view here), a document given to the occupier that outlines TV Licensing's rights during the search, does not state that the occupier needs to answer their questions or help them turn on equipment.
- The lead goon actually attempted to install the TV set by plugging in the power and aerial leads himself. Even if TV programmes had been seen, it is difficult to reconcile how the occupier could have been guilty of an offence due to the goon's actions of installing the equipment.
- Both goons clearly lacked the technical ability and mental aptitude to operate and inspect the equipment present. On several occasions they were heard to say "I don't know how this works".
- The occupier remained calm, well-reasoned and civil throughout. He had the forethought to explain his actions throughout the video. He also clearly explained the goons' actions during the video.
- The goons made no attempt to caution the occupier until about 8 minutes into their visit, by which time the younger one had virtually completed the TVL178 Record of Interview form. Given this elementary breach of procedure, we'd suggest the completed form is evidentially worthless.
- At no point was any TV programme image ever displayed on the TV screen (in case anyone tries to superimpose a frozen image from The One Show later on). The only images seen were the DVD player's welcome screen and the TV's own internal menu screen.
- Chapter 16, Section 2 of the TV Licensing Visiting Procedures (which is usually redacted by the BBC) states the following in bolded print: "NB - a refusal to provide name, to cooperate with the interview or to otherwise be "difficult" does not amount to an obstruction of the warrant".
The occupier attended court to plead not guilty and the case is currently adjourned pending his trial. We will be following this very closely. In this case we really do think TV Licensing has bitten off more than it can chew.
Stay tuned for further developments in this very interesting case.